1st Edition

Facing the Unexpected in Flight
Human Limitations and Interaction with Technology in the Cockpit

ISBN 9781498718714
Published October 27, 2015 by CRC Press
253 Pages 35 B/W Illustrations

USD $180.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

Airline pilots often have to face sudden, unexpected situations that can become potentially dangerous. They are trained to deal with these situations, but sometimes the lack of time before the situation deteriorates and the associated stress can compromise their basic cognitive sequence and lead to a serious incident or even an accident. This book identifies common denominators in pilots’ reactions to dangerous, unexpected events and highlights behavior common to all in complex, stressful situations.

Facing the Unexpected in Flight: Human Limitations and Interaction with Technology attempts to clarify the human characteristics at play in stressful situations, with the goal of providing a more solid basis for designing aeronautical operating equipment and shaping future automation. The book applies an original cognitive analysis method to highlight actual operational behavior within a quick succession of short mental segments lasting less than one minute in all. This rational method of assessing human potential should contribute to a more effective distribution of roles and help to optimize the pilot–aircraft interface.

The current drive towards total automation, together with the drone revolution and questions of cost-effectiveness within a global economy, raises the question of whether there is a need for pilots onboard aircraft. So, after scientifically dissecting human limitations and advantages in terms of flying an aircraft, the book concludes with reflections by the author on the possibility and implications of eliminating pilots from aircraft. In this section, the author sets aside scientific rigor and provides his sometimes subjective personal opinions on the professional future of airline pilots.

Table of Contents

Basic Motivation
Approach Adopted
Originality of the Research

Introduction to Aeronautical Techniques
Purpose of This Introduction
The Pilot’s Operational Context
The Operational Interface between These Systems
How the Pilot Integrates These Systems
Some General Remarks on Displays

The Cognitive Method Adopted
Chosen Approach
Indispensable Modelling
Concepts Employed
Hypotheses and the Scope of Application
Elaboration of the Model
Presentation and Basic Hypothesis
Mental Models (MMs)
Short-Term and Working Memories
Basic Mechanisms
Operational Processor (OP) and Agents (PA and AG)
Cognitive Functions (CF)
Temporal Functioning

The Model in Use
Basic Kinematic Functional Diagram
Dynamic Functioning
Levels of Action of Cognitive Functions
Effective Use of Discontinuous Cognitive Actions
What Time to Use?: Sequencing
Process behind the Cognitive Analysis Performed

Selection of Cases
Selection Criteria
Basis for the Analysis
Use of Experts: Validity Rating
List of Selected Cases
Case 1: A330, Go-Around
Flight Phase: A340–600, Normal Landing Flare without Incident
Case 2: A321, Aborted Take-Off
Case 3: Concorde, Approach/Landing
Case 4: F/A-18, Airshow
Case 5: A310, Landing

Case Studies
A330: Incident, Approach, Go-Around
Summary of the Case
Choice of Sequences
Chronological Analysis of Sequences
Remainder of Flight
Landing Flare of an A340–600 Aircraft in Manual Flight
Cognitive Model
Plan of the Analysis

Initial Findings
Main Observations
Attention Focus and Tunnelling Effect
Deduced Hypotheses
Hypothesis 1: Basic Cognitive Function Type (BCFT)
Hypothesis 2: The Influence of Contrast between the Present Situation and the Event
Hypothesis 3: Need for Simple Reactions
Influence of Factors Other than Operational
Probabilities or Certainties?

Summary and Recommendations
Common Denominators
First Phase: Trigger Event
Second Phase: Diagnosis
Third Phase: Decision-Action
Fourth Phase: Interruption of Tunnelling

Consequences and Prospects: ‘F = m.ϒ’?
Facts and Reflections
Basic Equation and Shortlist of Human Limitations
Manual Flight and Automation
Changing the Pilot’s Role
So Are Aircraft Better than Pilots?

Use of the Method
Field of Application
Eye-Tracking Technology


A Pilot on Board: But for How Long?
Some Personal Observations
The Cockpit
Prostheses and Their Interfacing
Last Resort
Emergence of Systems
The Authorities

Appendix A: Further Case Studies

Appendix B: Seven Flight Systems

Appendix C: Psychological Concepts Used

Appendix D: Exploitation of Expert Ratings

View More



Dr. Jean Pinet’s basic training was in engineering. He joined the Centre d’Essais en Vol (French flight test center) where he became flight test engineer in 1957 and experimental flight test pilot in 1958. In 1965, he joined the Concorde flight test team at Sud Aviation until the Aérospatiale Concorde program came to an end in 1985. He was responsible for testing the flight-handling qualities of the aircraft and for customer crew training.

In 1972, he founded the Aeroformation training center (today Airbus Training), which he directed until his retirement in 1994. He designed and set in place the Concorde and Airbus A300 to A340 training systems. He participated in training activities as a pilot instructor, still carrying out test flights as a test pilot. Concerned by the problems of the crews’ operational behavior, Dr. Pinet co-founded the Icarus Committee of the Flight Safety Foundation and the European Institute of Cognitive Engineering EURISCO.

He successfully completed a PhD in psychology-ergonomics in 2011. He is a member of the Air and Space Academy (AAE), of which he was president in 1989 and secretary general from 1992 to 2004.


"Jean Pinet's experience as one of the world's leading test pilot—he was the first man to pilot the Concorde supersonically—together with his authoritative knowledge and insight relating to human factors, lead to a unique examination of pilot reactions to unexpected events and of related human being possibilities and limitations."
—Sir Stuart Matthews, President, Flight Safety Foundation (retired)

"This is a very valuable book that is already on my shelf. Written by an exceptional experimental test pilot and engineer (Concorde), an international expert in flight training and a cognitive engineering scientist, it mixes expertise, experience and techniques such as eye tracking cross-fertilized by human and life sciences knowledge and methods."
—Guy André Boy, Florida Institute of Technology

"I would regard the book as a valuable tool for the nonpilot to get an idea of what piloting entails, and for the pilot to calibrate himself against what is in the book. The book is also a valiant effort to frame a mental model for a very sophisticated type of task."
IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, August 2016